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Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease |

Flock Worker’s Lung*: Broadening the Spectrum of Clinicopathology, Narrowing the Spectrum of Suspected Etiologies

David G. Kern, MD; Charles Kuhn, III, MD; E. Wesley Ely, MD, FCCP; Glenn S. Pransky, MD; Curtis J. Mello, MD, FCCP; Armando E. Fraire, MD, FCCP; Joachim Müller
Author and Funding Information

*From the Departments of Medicine (Drs. Kern and Mello) and Pathology (Dr. Kuhn), Brown University, Providence, RI; the Department of Medicine (Dr. Ely), Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN; the Departments of Medicine (Dr. Pransky) and Pathology (Dr. Fraire), University of Massachusetts, Worcester, MA; and EFT Consultants (Mr. Müller), Budingen, Germany.

Correspondence to: Charles Kuhn, III, MD, Department of Pathology, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, 111 Brewster St, Pawtucket, RI 02860



Chest. 2000;117(1):251-259. doi:10.1378/chest.117.1.251
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Study objectives: Workers in the nylon flocking industry recently have been found to be at increased risk of chronic nongranulomatous interstitial lung disease. Although a spectrum of cytologic and histopathologic abnormalities has been observed, nonspecific interstitial pneumonia, lymphoid nodules, and lymphocytic bronchiolitis predominated in the 19 previously reported cases of flock worker’s lung. Here we describe five additional patients who appear to expand the histopathologic spectrum and add to the evidence suggesting a causative role for respirable-sized nylon fragments.

Methods: We studied all North American patients (n = 5) found in 1998 to satisfy our previous case definition of flock worker’s lung. Two pulmonary pathologists independently reviewed each biopsy specimen.

Results: All five patients reported cough and dyspnea. Only one patient had crackles on chest auscultation. High-resolution CT scan, interpreted with attention to subtle ground-glass attenuation, remained a highly sensitive diagnostic test. Pulmonary function tests and plain chest radiograph were less sensitive. One patient’s wedge biopsy showed previously described prototypical findings. Two others had transbronchial biopsies showing some of the same features. The fourth patient’s wedge biopsy showed desquamative interstitial pneumonia. The fifth patient had bilateral synchronous adenocarcinoma but with radiographic evidence of diffuse interstitial fibrosis. These 5 patients and the 19 patients studied previously were exposed to nylon flock manufactured by a rarely used cutting technology.

Conclusion: Findings in these five patients appear to broaden the spectrum of the clinicopathology of flock worker’s lung and add to the evidence incriminating respirable-sized nylon particulates produced during the manufacture and use of rotary-cut nylon flock.

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